June 24, 2018

Tim Paine should have stamped his authority, not Justin Langer's, on Australia

The new Australian captain needed to establish that he was the one in charge

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No sooner had England established a world-record score and an unassailable lead in the five-match series, than the muttering started about Tim Paine's appointment as Australia's ODI captain.

Paine can't be blamed for the opposition's record score. England belted 21 sixes, so a legitimate response to his critics would be: "What was I supposed to do. Put fielders in the stands?"

However what Paine didn't do when he was officially appointed captain of the Test and ODI sides was establish who was in charge.

Following the appointment of a new coach, Paine talked about the team putting into practise Justin Langer's philosophies. Paine should have established how HE wanted the team to behave and how HE wanted them to play. When Mark Taylor began his highly successful reign as Australian captain, he told coach Bob Simpson - who had stepped forward to speak to the players - "I'll handle this, Bob."

Paine may have felt he was only keeping the seat warm for the return of banned skipper Steven Smith, but to not immediately establish his leadership credentials was a mistake.

Contrast Paine's position with that of Ajinkya Rahane, who took over from injured captain Virat Kohli during a Test series against Australia. In his own positive way he made it obvious he was leading in his own style and was not a carbon-copy of Kohli.

This is not an easy thing to do as a substitute captain but Rahane, who didn't appear an obvious choice, proved to be a natural leader. One of the hardest things for a selection panel is the choice of a new captain. It's harder for selectors to predict captaincy potential than it is for the player to evolve into a good skipper if he has natural leadership qualities.

In Kohli's case it was easier for selectors to gauge his captaincy potential because he successfully led the Indian Under-19 side. It's becoming increasingly difficult for Australian selectors to assess captaincy potential as international cricketers play less and less first-class cricket. This results in them having fewer opportunities to hone their captaincy skills at the first-class level.

It sounds obvious but the first thing a captain must do when he's appointed is to lead. This is one way to earn the respect of fellow players, which is crucial to any leadership success.

The other aspect of the job a captain has to quickly grasp is that all wins and all losses go against his name. Once a captain understands that concept he's more likely to stamp his authority on the task and improve his chances of success.

One thing a selection panel must try to avoid in choosing a new captain is appointing someone who might be weighed down by the extra responsibility, like Alastair Cook, who wasn't a natural leader and appeared to find the task onerous, having earned the job purely on the basis of his long tenure in the team.

It's perhaps instructive that both India and England have more players with captaincy potential than Australia. India have Rahane as a ready-made replacement and England have Test vice-captain Ben Stokes while Jos Buttler was comfortable acting as a last minute stand-in for Eoin Morgan at Trent Bridge.

Whereas Australia's international players have few opportunities to hone captaincy skills at the first-class level, India have a positive advantage. The IPL provides additional opportunities for players to enhance their captaincy credentials in a high-pressure atmosphere, since the tournament has a designated window to the exclusion of other cricket.

With both Smith and David Warner out of the running, Paine was the obvious choice as Australian captain, having previously performed the task at lower levels.

Australia's problem could be dire if Paine can't hold his place in the ODI side and they have to unearth another captain. At least any successor will have the comfort of knowing Australia's results can't get any worse.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

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